Friday, April 1, 2016


My next door neighbor and I have been trading food all winter - I'd give her the rest of a stew or soup, and she'd refill my bowl with something she made when she returned it. That way, neither of us gets tired of our "creations," and we get each other's opinions on the dishes. She is cooking for her elderly mother who has a tiny appetite to go with her tiny frame, and I am cooking for a "variety guy" who, while he is generally easy to please and hugely lovable, doesn't enjoy leftovers very much. Nice for us both to have a friendly way to pass along the extras.

Hard to believe this is the same neighbor we so resented when they first built the house next door about 10 years ago. I had wished I had the money to buy the vacant lot myself, to preserve the hill full of wildflowers, to keep the line of weedy trees that reached up to the window behind my desk where I could watch little birds flitting through at eye level while working at my computer, to retain the steep hillside where the neighborhood children slid down on flattened cardboard "sleds," screaming with exhilaration.

Instead, we got months of dirt and noise from the building site and a wall that rose up higher than our house not ten feet from our windows. No wonder we were resentful! It bugged me so much that finally I had to put my anger aside or let it eat me up. I went next door and asked for a tour of the house, so I could learn to love it.

I have to admit that I didn't learn to love it right then, nor for several years afterwards, but I did come to a place of acceptance. It improved when our neighbors added some screening vegetation on their decks and assented to preserving our view of Mt. Tamalpais by repositioning a trellis on their side. 

Slowly, over the years, small gestures of friendship were made, first by them, returned by us. When Peter was diagnosed with cancer, we reached out to help with drives to treatment and securing a place on the Peninsula when Peter had to stay down there for a month of serious chemotherapy. Peter passed away about five years ago.

But, maybe some good came out of all that, as we grew closer to his widow, Doreen, during and after that time. And, again, very slowly, we became better neighbors and, finally, good friends, taking care of each other's dogs or picking up packages when we were on vacation.

This week, Doreen gifted us with a hearty minestrone that she clearly put a lot of work into. The broth was rich with tomatoes, and the legumes and vegetables gave it interest and texture. And, it was doubly welcome because our furnace blower died this week and we were bundled up with socks and extra sweaters while we awaited the correct part arriving from the furnace guy.

Now, one can't really complain too much when a blown blower means only that the temperature in the house plunges all the way down to 60 - where I used to live in western New York state, this would have been a much more serious situation in early April. But, we are California wimps, and proud of it, so we have to kvetch at least a little.

Doreen said, when delivering the soup, "It's just okay," but we thought it was much better than "okay," especially when we grated a little fresh Parmesan over it and spooned up the resulting garden ambrosia. I'll happily accept her friendsoup any old day, even now that the furnace is happily humming again.


Anonymous jann said...

Sure she feels the same. Yours are never just "okay" and no doubt
equally welcome. Lucky for you both.

Monday, April 04, 2016  
Blogger Greg said...

What a great neighborly tradition.

Friday, April 08, 2016  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Jann, yes, it's a nice collaboration.

Greg, thanks - we do enjoy it!

Friday, April 08, 2016  
Blogger Katie Zeller said...

What a wonderful idea! I would like the occasional break from cooking... and mon mari is only accepting of leftovers for lunch. We also have had furnace problems but, luckily, we can build a fire....

Wednesday, April 13, 2016  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Katie, hope your furnace is back in working order

Thursday, April 14, 2016  
Blogger Diane said...

Great story behind the soup. Change can be so hard and you found the way to embrace it.

Friday, April 15, 2016  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Slowly, very slowly! 😉

Friday, April 15, 2016  
Blogger Levi Eslinger said...

This is such a nice idea and a great way to really bring those people who live around you into your lives and treat them as friends. I bet the really interesting part of the whole food swapping idea is that you get to tryout food you wouldn't have thought to cook. And what a good way it is to stay warm the furnace broke!

Levi Eslinger @ CapitalPlumbing ca

Tuesday, March 28, 2017  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home